Despite their awkward appearance, Apple's AirPods have become the earbuds of choice for working out, largely thanks to quality audio without any wires to tangle. However, at $159 to start, they aren't exactly for everyone.
As with most innovations, when one company makes big strides, others tend to copy. AirPods are no exception: a new category of earbuds has emerged, known as TWS (True Wireless Stereo), that have absolutely no physical wires or bands. This means fitness enthusiasts can enjoy wire-free earbuds that stay snug in your ear. Here are some of the better options we found that offer an AirPod-like experience on both iPhone and Android, but at a more affordable price.
The most analogous headphones to Apple's AirPods are Samsung's Galaxy Buds. While these earbuds did retail only $10 less than the AirPods when first announced, the price has steadily decreased, which has turned these TWS earbuds into a fantastic deal.
For starters, the Galaxy Buds come with one additional hour of listening time compared to 2nd Gen AirPods. They do lose out to AirPods when it comes to the carrying case, as the case is only able to provide an extra 7 hours. But unlike AirPods, the carrying case supports wireless charging by default (no need for a special case). Additionally, if you opt to buy any Galaxy S10 or Note 10 series device, you can wirelessly charge the case using your phone for even more time.
Thanks to the tight snug of the ear tips, the Galaxy Buds do a great job of isolating sound despite not having an official noise cancellation feature. Sound quality is great thanks to Bluetooth 5 and the custom tuning by AKG. The corresponding app also allows you to customize sound based on your preference as well. Finally, it shares similar touch-based controls that can be used to control music, phone calls, and enable/disable ambient noise.
If you need earbuds that will last all day, the Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 is your best option. It offers 9 hours on a single charge, and the carrying case can charge the earbuds four more times, making the total playtime 45 hours. That's almost two full days that you can listen to your music and answer phone calls before you need to charge the earbuds and carrying case.
It supports Qualcomm's aptX audio codecs for improved sound from the 5.8 mm drivers. It has an IP rating of IPX5, which means it safe to wear in a rainstorm or on a run with sweat dripping from your face. It supports both Google Assistant and Siri and uses touch controls to manage music. And for phone calls, it uses Qualcomm's Clear Voice Capture (cVc). And you get all this for $60 cheaper than the second-generation AirPods.
At one-third the price of the AirPods, Anker's Soundcore Liberty Neo earbuds are hard to ignore, especially when you consider what you are getting at this price. The Liberty Neo is one of the few earbuds on our list with technology to speed up pairing. Out of the box, the earbuds automatically enter pairing mode once removed from the carrying case and nearly instantly appear on your device's Bluetooth scan list.
Despite being only $50, it comes with 12-hour playtime — 3.5 hours on a single charge and an additional 9 hours from the case. Most commutes and workouts are less than 3.5 hours, so you are covered either way. And if you need more time, it supports fast charging, giving you one hour of playtime with a 10-minute charge.
The Liberty Neo is rated at IPX7, which is one of the highest on our list, giving it top protection from sweat and water. One unique addition is the use of the LDS antenna, which strengthens the Bluetooth 5 connection, so no drops and skips. There is even noise cancellation for phone calls, powered by Qualcomm's cVc tech.
With JLab Audio's JBuds Air Executive, you get the convenience of AirPods at less than half the cost. You can tell JLab Audio set out to beat Apple in every way possible, and the result is a product that comes very close.
It starts with more than 30 hours of playtime. This is the second-highest on our list and rare at this price point. On a single charge, you get one more hour of playback time compared to AirPods. The carrying case then provides an additional 24 hours of playtime. Depending on how you use this, you should be able to commute to and from work, work out at night, and still not need to charge the carrying case for at least two more days.
The JBuds Air Executive use Class 1 Bluetooth 5, the highest bandwidth available on a Bluetooth 5 connection. The earbuds instantly turn on and pair with your phone when removed from the case, provided Bluetooth is enabled on your iPhone or Android device. There are multiple audio profiles to control the sound and an ambient sound mode to improve your hearing of the surrounding area. And again, you get all this at less than half the price of AirPods.
Although the Jabra Elite 65t is the most expensive option on our list, there are reasons for the higher cost. Namely, the corresponding app gives you much more control than the other TWS earbuds on our list.
With the Jabra app, you can customize the sound using six different presets. While these earbuds aren't the best sounding on our list, customization does help to compensate for the underwhelming drivers (to a degree).
The three most popular voice assistants are supported, which you can access using the touch controls. Battery life is also good, not great, offering five hours on a single charge, with the charging case offering two additional full charges for a total of 15 hours. You can also get an extra hour of charge in 15 minutes of charging. Finally, this is one of the only TWS earbuds we found that had official dust protection with an IP rating of IP55.
One feature you won't find most TWS earbuds at this price point is an IPX8 rating. With this rating, the TOZO T10 is water resistant up to 1 m for 30 minutes. We are talking the same water resistance as most flagship smartphones, giving more flexibility for how you use their earbuds, whether it's sweat during a run or laps in the pool.
The charging case supports wireless charging via Qi so you can quickly top up with a standard wireless charger. It has 5 hours of playtime on a single charge, with nine additional hours via the charging case.
Sound is high-grade thanks to 8 mm drivers with punchy bass. Thanks to the seal, the TOZO T10 does a good job at noise isolation, although there isn't any official noise cancellation feature. These are the cheapest earbuds on our list at $49.99 if purchased through Amazon, which currently has a 20% coupon, reducing the price by another $10.
This article was produced during Gadget Hacks' annual Health & Fitness special coverage. Read all of the Health & Fitness series.